I’ve spent the last 13 years being a mom, an entrepreneur, and the CEO of a 100% remote company, and in that time, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it means to work from home as a parent. Now, with more professionals working remotely, more and more parents are getting a taste of what it’s like to combine work and family life—and they may be surprised to find it’s not all fun and games.
Despite what you may have heard, these three myths about working from home as a mom or dad are far from the truth:
Myth #1: Working from home means you’ll automatically have a healthy work-life balance.
When I first started working from home, I believed the myth that I could easily find a balance between work and parenting—I thought I’d be able to spend equal time in both areas, keeping the two strictly separate. But I quickly learned that this strategy is wholly impractical.
Working from home means the line is blurred between your work life and your parenting life, making a steady balance hard to maintain. Instead, to better accommodate my life and personal schedule, I’ve taken on a mindset of work-life integration rather than one of strict balance. For me, this means I’m less stringent about how much time I spend on each task, and I try to think more holistically about how to best optimize my time and manage my priorities. I may take a work phone call while folding laundry, for example.
Of course, this framework still allows me to carve out blocks of quality time for both work and parenting as needed. It’s important to me that when I am interacting with my children, I am focused on them, and when I am completing work that requires my full attention, my focus is on what I’m doing there. When I do encounter distractions or competing priorities during work or parenting time, I try to make it on the work side as much as possible and prioritize my family.
Myth #2: Working from home means you’re available all the time.
It’s an oldie but a goodie: this myth is widely believed by family members of remote professionals everywhere who think that since you work from home, you’re available for lengthy phone calls and unannounced visits, even during work hours. While I wanted to be accommodating to my family and help out when they needed it, the time I spent with them was time I had to make up at my desk later—and after a few months of running myself ragged, I had to make a change.
The solution in this case is to set healthy boundaries. This may mean having difficult and candid conversations with loved ones about what you can and can’t do while you’re on-the-clock. While your schedule may be somewhat flexible, you still have things to do throughout the day, and you can’t be off running errands for them, as much as you might want to lend a hand.
When setting boundaries, it helps to be proactive. Notice right away when loved ones are overstepping your bounds, and kindly explain the situation. Don’t let the situation build until your explanation is colored with resentment. The people who love you will understand and give you the space you need—you just have to speak up!
Myth #3: Working from home means you won’t need to arrange childcare.
Don’t let the stock photos fool you: scenes of children playing quietly while mom or dad is hard at work nearby are more fantasy than reality.
Taking care of kids is a full-time job, and one that often can’t be done concurrently with your professional obligations. We’ve all seen what a fun-loving child can do to a video conference call, and trying to meet your children’s needs while performing your best at work will likely leave you feeling like you aren’t doing either task very well.
Avoid the guilt and cut yourself some slack by arranging for childcare, at least part-time, if you are working from home. Luckily, there are lots of options available, from full-time daycare to a part-time sitter. Having an extra set of eyes—and hands!—around the house will ensure both your and your kids’ needs are taken care of. What’s more, a few hours of uninterrupted productivity may even help you wrap up work earlier than you expected, giving you even more time to spend with your family at the end of a long day.
The bottom line
While being a full-time work from home parent comes with its own set of challenges, it’s worth the effort to get it right. Having extra time at home with my kids to watch them grow and thrive is one of greatest joys of my life—and achieving my career and business goals at the same time is just icing on the cake.